Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Sunday, November 20, 2022
I was thinking about the ways in which music seems to irresistibly provoke a mimetic physical response.
Well, for some of us.
Air guitar, air bass, air drumming - these are the big ones. But there's also air piano, air sax, air trumpet, air trombone even...
Certain kinds of music are particularly triggering.
For me, it's certain kinds of rock (not indie!), Certain kinds of jazz - fusion, jazz-rock, as opposed to Blue Note. Music where there's a bit of a swagger, a performative flourish. But also where the music is hard-hitting, has a physicality to the impact as well as the playing.
Now this effect on listeners must surely have died out as music has become more digital - less about manually played instruments and more about click-and-drag, shunting information about on a screen.
There's no such thing as an "air" response to hip hop, is there? The mimetic response would be rapping along, which you'll see-hear in the street when someone is listening to rap or grime on headphones. I suppose one could imagine a mimetic impulse to trap drum patterns. But in practice, I think not - somehow the body knows that it's not a human hitting those drums. The physicality of impact, the pull on the body, is not paralleled by a physicality of execution.
What got me thinking on this topic in the first place was playing some jungle and succumbing to the urge to mime out drum patterns - to do "air breakbeats".
Resulting, of course, in an absurd parody of actual drumming, based on things I've seen on TV - wrist-flexing, rimshot cracks, ride cymbal flutters...
That made me wonder if jungle really is unique among the digital-era musics in that it still has that capacity.
For instance, I can't imagine the mimetic impulse being triggered when listening to house or techno - anything propelled by a 909.
Jungle - being based on samples of breaks, of hand-played drum patterns - retains a musicality and humanity that can still pull at your limbs in this way.
But with jungle, the mimesis is a bizarre distorted form of mirroring. You're responding to the human player still audible within the barrage of chopped-up, resequenced drum breaks - the ghost in the machine. But these are accelerated and hyper-syncopated beyond what the original player would be capable of, let alone flailing failing you. So the element of wish-fulfilment is doubled. Two ghosts inhabit your flesh and take possession: the manual, near-automatized movements of the sampled drummer, and then the producer's edits, treatments and other decisions, which override and re-imprint the original performance. You feel the twin pull of funk and of superhumanization, and fall even further short than with regular "air drumming".
The unfinished thought here - the idea on the tip of my brain...
air guitar, air drums, air breaks, air whatever.... are they actually forms of dancing?
Nerd dancing - for those too physically awkward to get down.... but who can model, or self-project, into the role of the one who makes others get down.
Andrew Parker notes that "Maybe air-playing instruments is favoured by those who have no proficiency - their imaginings are unencumbered by technical knowledge." Although proficient in guitar and piano, he never air plays, precisely because "When I listen to a fast passage.... I'm mindful of the technical demands and what they would require to be developed." Good point: ignorance is prequisite for air anything!
He also sends through a video of a drummer doing an authentically hectic and hyper-syncopated simulation of jungle breakbeats, showing that an exceptional human player can equal the "superhumanization" effect of breakbeat science
If listening blind to this I would probably think it was a jungle track, except 1/ the rhythm switches up too often and 2/ I'd be wondering when the bass was going to make its entrance. After all, it's called drum and bass, not drum and drum...
Friday, November 11, 2022
Randall Roberts on a soon to be excavated 1986 recording of Sun Ra exploring the potentials of a Prophet VS synth:
"In the summer of that year while in Boston with his band, Sun Ra splashed down in a high-tech studio called Mission Control. Among the many synths and sound generators he approached was a newly released Prophet VS (“Vector Synthesizer”). The programmable digital keyboard, created by genius electronic synthesist Dave Smith, was remarkably sophisticated. Ra took to it and started playing. A recording of that session, called Prophet, will see release in December [on Modern Harmonics].
"You can thank gravity, the force of the cosmos and the magnetic field that a studio engineer as able to hit record, capturing for posterity the Space Traveler’s first experience with this particular synthetic future. Not that Ra was inexperienced. From an early age, the artist and composer took to new musical technology. Notes Ra biographer John Szwed in Space is the Place: The Life and Times of Sun Ra, the composer “kept up with new developments in music technology, especially those involving electricity, and dreamed of the possibilities of composing for instruments with new musical timbres."
That's the same synth that Keith Levene used on "Careering". Actually no, the Prophet 5 was the one he used - the Sun Ra one is a later, digital iteration.
Sunday, November 6, 2022
A 2011 mix by Soulwax that applies the New Beat trick - slowing house tracks down to make them sexy-eerie - to the faster Belgcore sound that came after New Beat.
The footage of dancing Lowlands ravers (often shirtless) from back in the day (I presume?) really makes the mix - bringing out the funklessness of the movements that was partially covered over by their sheer hyper-kinesis at the correct speed. No diss intended: Eurorave reactivated folk-dance traditions deep-buried and dormant in the youth population of Northern Europe, a kind of kinaesthetic race memory. Which is why jumpstyle for instance reminds me of jigging around the Maypole and Irish step dancing (all the action below the knee - kicky moves for kick-drummy music)
"Even though these Belgian records sound very "now", they are actually 20 years old and were meant to be played at a much, much faster speed. At the time this was the devil's music for us, but we have learned to listen through the claps and distorted kicks and discovered that if you slow these really dark and heavy techno records down all the way to about 115 bpm, it suddenly makes them sound less frantic,ballsier and a lot sexier.Belgium at its best when pitched down.
1. Yves Deruyter - Animals (Remix) 0:00 2. Pleasure Game - Les Seigneur Des Tenebres (Destructor Mix) 1:36 3. J'N'J - The Ballet 2:42 4. Dr. Phibes & Teddy Jones - Waresnare (Stelt Mix) 4:29 5. Ace The Space - Nine Is a Classic (Classic Strength Mix) 5:36 6. X-Change - Ready To Rock 7:08 7. Mackenzie - Cyclotron (Atomic Kick Mix) 8:06 8. X-Change - Let's Go 9:38 9. Space Trax - Vivisection 10:36 10. The Postman - ?? 11:43 11. Sonik Expander - Omega 12:31
12. Rave Crusader - Energy Overload (Acid Changes Mix) 13:57 13. Ace The Space - 9 Is a Classic 15:12 14. Krid Snero - Freedom 16:29 15. Krid Snero - F*** of Death 17:02 16. Next - Out There 18:17 17. Public Ambient - Revival Shadows (Side B - Track 2) 19:10 18. Bam Bam - La Casa 20:36 19. Dream Your Dream - Soushkin 22:46 20. Next - Transformed Temple (Remix) 23:54 21. Casa Nostra - Insomnia 24:52 22. Final Exposure - Vortex 26:07 23. N.U.K.E. - Dance With a Wolf (Pure Space Mix) 27:30
24. T.M.F. - F*** Off 28:04 25. Insider - Dreams 28:37 26. Hardfloor - Once Again Back (Rumble Mix) 29:44 27. Dreamland - Mind Penetration 30:30 28. Friends Of Django - F***in' Revenge! 32:14 29. Ramirez - Orgasmico (DJ Ricci Mix) 33:13 30. S.V.E.N. - For God's Sake 34:53 31. Ramirez - La Musika Tremenda 36:08 32. Krid Snero - ?? 37:40 33. Modular Expansion - Cubes 38:30 34. S.V.E.N. - Silencium 39:03 35. Groove Reactor - Magick 40:10 36. Krid Snero - White Line (D&S Remix) 41:50
37. BST - Êtes-Vous Coupable? 42:32 38. Synthadelic - I'm a Secretary 44:12 39. Tragic Castle - Say Hello To The Bad Guy 45:02 40. Yves Deruyter - Guess Who? 46:09 41. S.V.E.N. - Free Cocaine 47:16 42. Trigger - Stratosphere 49:13 43. Aqua Contact - La Sirena 49:46 44. Krid Snero - ?? 51:02 45. The Future - Locked In Madness 52:08 46. Plexus - Cactus Rhythm (Mike Ferlin Mix) 53:06 47. Second Phrase - Mentasm (Remix) 53:59 48. Ace The Space - Nine Is a Classic (Bay Area Drive-By Mix) 54:58
"The devil's music for us" - Belgian hardcore really did strike fear and terror! Yyou had otherwise sensible people, who'd loved acid house, likening it to fascism... Older worn-out ravers couldn't decide if the vibe was Castle Donington or the Nuremberg Rally soundtracked by a lobotomized Carl Orff!
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
- Mixmaster Morris aka The Irresistible Force sounds the rave alarm, September 1991, Melody Maker
A different viewpoint from Belgophile Caspar Pound of Rising High (who put out The Irresistible Force album)
Caspar's like, "Altamont? Bring it on, bring it on!"
More from Caspar Pound (plus a bit from Mark Archer of Nexus 21 / Altern-8) from an early 92 special issue of NME.
Here also is Joey Beltram in Melody Maker espousing a dark future techno whose spiritual homelands are Belgium and Brooklyn - and confessing to a love for actual heavy metal especially Sabbath (so perhaps hardkore tekno's spiritual homelands are Belgium, Brooklyn and Birmingham)
He also dismisses Frankie Knuckles and Tony Humphries as "old farty music" (shades of punk's Boring Old Farts dissage of the Old Wave)
When I interviewed Beltram in early '92, he claimed he was in the running to produce the next Metallica album!